Looking for worthwhile smartphone and tablet apps can be sweaty work. While there are some amazing building and renovating tools available, the useful stuff's often hard to find. In most cases it's obscured by many thousands of underwhelming get-rich-quick efforts, half-hearted imitations and cheaply respun catalogues or web apps that have been slapped together because a heavily-coiffed marketing department somewhere is afraid of falling off the iBandwagon.
Thankfully though, there are some real gems available - and the right apps can be a huge help in certain circumstances. We've grouped a few of our favourites together below, based on what they do and when they might come in handy.
Think we've missed an app or two? Tell us which ones and we'll check them out.
Gathering ideas and inspiration:
Houzz Interior Design Ideas (Price: free) - Houzz is a wildly popular interior design website (and accordingly, has its share of clunky imitators). The Houzz iPhone and iPad app allows you to look through thousands of glossy pictures from all over the world - and to narrow down ideas to a particular area or room in your house, a certain style (e.g. 'contemporary', 'Asian'), or even to filter options so that you're only seeing work from designers in a certain city.
The app lets you save pictures to an 'ideabook' too, and to identify particular products - unbelievably handy when you're trying to get an idea of how you might want your house to look. Houzz also features a separate app just for designing kids' rooms.
Pinterest (Price: free) - Another picture sharing and bookmarking app, albeit a little less focussed on building and renovating than Houzz. Pinterest is a great resource for gathering (and saving) design ideas, and the app's an absolute pleasure to use.
Dwell (Price: free) - An extension of the popular home design website, this app brings the editorial content from Dwell onto your iPhone or iPad. A bit lighter on for pictures than Houzz, but contains some fantastic feature articles on exceptional houses and design ideas from around the world.
Metricon Homes (Price: free) - We're completely agnostic when it comes to home builders, but we do have to take our hats off to Metricon for developing a fantastic IOS app. This one shows their full range of houses, includes video walk-throughs and galleries of different facades, shows the locations of display homes on maps, allows you to add your own pictures and notes and to share via twitter, Facebook or email. Worth a look, even if only for some inspiration.
Planning and managing your build or renovation:
MagicPlan (Price: free) - This is an amazing app. MagicPlan is one of the very few IOS apps that makes full use of your device's camera, compass and GPS. MagicPlan is designed to allow you to intuitively map out the floor plan of your house, and it does admirable job of it.
A very powerful renovation tool if you understand what you're doing - we strongly recommend you watch the excellent tutorial videos to see just how much you can do with this one.
Sightspace 3D (Price: $15.99) / 3DOn ARchitecture (Price: Free to download, around $15 to upload your own plans) - If you're interested in getting a hyper-real preview of how your house will look on site and you're able to get your hands on some Google Sketchup plans, then either of these apps is worth a look. Sightspace 3D and 3DOn ARchitecture will allow you not only to get an augmented reality view of your house sitting where it's going to be on your plot of land, but also to do a virtual walk-through. At the time of writing, these apps do more or less the same thing. Sightspace 3D is also available for Android devices.
Sun Seeker (Price: $5.49) - This app shows the path of the sun where you live, including its winter and summer solstice paths. Incredibly helpful when you're thinking about making the most of thermal mass, shading using eaves or how your solar panels are going to be positioned.
iHandy carpenter (Price: $1.99) - A many-in-one tool featuring a spirit level, plumb bob, surface level, ruler and protractor. Great for checking that everything's straight and tidy.
Home Builder Pro Calcs (Price: $5.49) - This is technically more of an app for builders, but it's worth downloading even if you're only partially involved. Home Builder Pro Calcs features a huge amount of functionality, including more practical calculators and estimation tools than you can shake a stick at. The app is principally designed for the US market although it easily switches to metric calculations, and much of what it offers is usable just about anywhere.
ColorChange (Price: $2.99) - Want to see how your walls might look in a particular colour? This app lets you take a photo, then easily isolate wall surfaces in that photo using clever edge-detection algorithms. From here, you can manipulate just the colour of the wall in the photo for an immediate idea of how your home might look with a certain shade of paint.
Maintaining your home
Snap Send Solve (Price: Free) - A very handy way to deal with the council for any issues that might affect the area immediately around your home. Public trees posing a threat to your property? Graffiti on your fence? Damage to the guttering or footpath outside your house? Just take a photo with this app, and send it in with a brief description. Snap Send Solve will automatically figure out your location, GPS tag your report and send it to the appropriate council. By most accounts, this app's a very effective tool.
Home Maintenance (Price: $5.49)
Not a bad little app for keeping track of different maintenance tasks around the house. Features a fair list of predefined tasks, and the option to add your own or customise the list so it's a touch less American. Allows you to track things with photos, set alerts for periodic maintannce and email yourself records of your home maintenance.
A useful app if you've got a lot of maintenance to take care of across more than one property. If you're looking for something a little less complicated (or free, for that matter) you might also want to check out the BUILD home maintenance schedule, which you can just as easily fill out and print off.
Any other apps you've found that have helped you with building or renovating? Tell us about them below...